The Police Debates

Writen by Ron Kaufman

When a senior officer of the Singapore Police Force (SPF) asked for my opinion about service improvement, mindset training and new technology, I became curious.

I did some detective work of my own and discovered the SPF holds internal debates on provocative service questions. It's one of the best ideas I've seen for developing a service culture. Here's how they did it. You can do it, too!

The debate competition is open to all. Sixteen teams of three compete in a preliminary round. A ballot system determines the teams' order of appearance, motions to be debated and position (proposition or opposition) each team will take. The winning team of each pair advances to the next round. Competition continues until two teams reach the finals.

A judging panel includes police reservists in the private sector and other specialists in quality service training.

The judging criteria are as follows:
• Substance of speech – 35%
• Organization of speech – 25%
• Rebuttal / reply to floor – 10%
• Teamwork – 10%
• Diction – 10%
• Showmanship – 10%

Motions for debate in the preliminary round:
• Improving service makes customers more demanding.
• High service standards increase work competency.
• Lack of training is the cause for service lapses.

Motions for debate in the quarterfinals:
• Striving for service excellence compromises SPF's image as an enforcement agency.
• The nature of police work does not allow officers to provide quality service.
• It is more important for SPF to be results-oriented than service-oriented.

Motions for debate in the semifinals:
• To provide quality service, SPF should rely more on new technology.
• To provide quality service, only experienced staff should be placed in frontline work.

Motion for debate in the finals:
• To achieve service excellence, an officer's attitude matters more than their training.

The results of the competition were impressive. The original intention was to increase staff involvement in the annual campaign, stimulate interest in the subject of quality service, create better understanding about the importance of key service issues, help management understand staff concerns about being service-oriented and learn about any implementation difficulties that may have been overlooked.

In the words of the SPF: 'All of these benefits were achieved. Staff were very forthcoming with their opinions and the activity was one of the favorites among officers so far. Demand to enter the competition exceeded supply.'

Key Learning Point
In today's world of intensifying competition and rising customer expectations, organizations need staff who understand key issues and appreciate sometimes conflicting points of view.

Action Steps
What questions about service, innovation and teamwork do you want your staff to thoroughly and thoughtfully consider?

Make a list of important issues everyone in your organization should understand. Draft them into `position statements' that can be debated `for' and `against'. Set up a competition with teams, judges and high profile presentations. Then watch your people kick into action with creative energy, full participation and a constructive new flow of ideas, insights and inspiration.

Ron Kaufman is an internationally acclaimed educator and motivator for partnerships and quality customer service. He is author of the bestselling "UP Your Service!" and founder of "UP Your Service College". Visit for more such Customer Service articles, subscribe to his Newsletter, or to buy his bestselling Books, Videos, Audio CDs on Customer Service from his secure Online Store. You can also watch Ron live or listen to him at


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